One of the great challenges of the San Francisco Bay Area is the Hang 2 "Hole" - a lack good sites to fly to allow you to build experience and airtime towards your H3. Your H3 holds the promise land - with plenty of good sites that promise plenty of soaring, but the problem is usually getting the required 10 hours of airtime to get there. Below are some of the strategies you can use to work towards your H3 rating once you have your H2.
All of these strategies require an instructor willing to sign you off after you complete the requirements. Local shops may have their own requirements for signoffs in addition to any USHPA requirements.
Ed Levin Ad Infinitum
Ed Levin is a Wings of Rogallo site in Milpitas. It has a training hill, a 150ft, 300ft, 600ft and 1750ft launch. Ed Levin is a fun and beautiful site to fly, but a straight sled ride from the top is about 7 minutes. You can probably do about 4 flights in a good day when you include all the unpacking, repacking, and driving and retrieving. With this method its going to take about 20 full days of good weather. This probably isn't a very efficient method. Ed Levin can sometimes be soarable on pre-frontal days, but be wary as the road to the top closes when its wet, whether your car is at the top or not.
The site also has a long list of requirements to be able to launch from the top. The rules are explained here - I recommend having them carefully read by your attorney. :)
Lake McClure and Lots of Gas Money
Lake McClure is a mountain site run by MLSR about 2 hours from the Bay Area. It is a consistently soarable site (80%+ of the time). If you are willing to drive there - you can get some good long flights and quickly work towards your 10 hours. McClure requires Hang2's to be sponsored, but McClure has many pilots that are very experienced and willing to help a fellow new pilot out. Contact some of the McClure pilots (like noman) on the forum for help. There is often an observer there also.
The downsides about McClure are
- LZ can be intimidating and bumpy for a new pilot.
- They only launch once a day typically in early afternoon. As a newb, you'll sometimes sink out with just a short flight to show for the day.
- It can be windy/turbulent - so you may drive all that way to find your sponsor is not comfortable with you flying
- The road to the top requires a local key holder - usually this is a non-issue as they fly on weekends, but you'll need to verify that someone will be around on weekday trips.
Marina and the Dunes
Marina State Beach (south of Santa Cruz) can provide coastal soaring. This site is administered by the Coastal Condors and information on flying the site can be found here >> member application- pilot certification It can be difficult to stay up as it provides a small lift band but provides a beach to land on. However, with a little bit of practice, you can soar the dunes for many hours each day. Marina Beach is very consistent in the spring time and you could easily rack up 10 hours of soaring time in just 2 weekends of flying. A H3 rating is required to fly Marina, or H2 with local instructor or observer sign off. The flying rules here are not too lengthy, but don't forget your hook knife. You may also take a moment to review the map and chart.
Being a Rebel and Flying Unregulated Sites
There is also a host of unregulated sites in or near the bay area which anyone can fly - including H2's. A word of warning: some of these sites are difficult and can be dangerous for inexperienced pilots.
- Big Sur makes a great weekend camping trip. Its usually a 15 minute sled ride, but its beautiful and fun and you can get a few flights in a weekend if it isn't "socked" in by fog.
- Mussel Rock is a site just a few miles south of Funston. It can provide hours and hours of coastal soaring in the right conditions. There are several launches of varying difficulty, and the LZ is a mess (and you can also land on the beach if you don't mind a lot of walking). This thread provides a little information about Mussel.
- Waddell Creek is another coastal site on highway that can provide hours of soaring under the right conditions. The launch is tricky, but the LZ is a nice big beach if you don't mind landing down there. This site has its own risks.
- Mt Hull makes a great weekend camping trip. H2's should start with an Early morning sled ride, heading along the ridge to the LZ, sled rides are usually 15-20 minutes. Later in the day flights of hours are possible, but H2's should only attempt these flight under guidance. It is a 5-6:1 glide to the LZ, so one can easily get in trouble and have nowhere to land, when strong winds blow from the lake, an H2 flying a low performance glider could easily find themselves unable to make the LZ. Caution should always be advised, and any H2 that flies there should keep in mind the glide required to reach the LZ at all times. Launch only faces one direction, so check weather forecasts before you go.
Even doing just 2 sledders a day should net you over an hour for a weekend, and an appropriately supervised pilot may fly mid day and get 2+ hour flights each day, 5 hours in one weekend is not unreasonable at this site. Radios may be a good idea, but always use caution - if the H2 can't fly there safely without a radio, they can't fly safely there. In air mentoring via the radio should not replace mentoring on the ground before flying there.
Mission Soaring Center offers towing for $30 a pop. You can go to hollister and get 5-10 tows on a given day. At about 5-10 minutes a piece you can quickly build airtime using this method if you can afford it.
There are a handful of great sites in the Tahoe/Reno area. Some of these are soarable and flyable by H2s. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the Reno area site guide and talk to the local pilots before traveling there to fly.
Mount Tamalpais(Tam) (Google Map - ) is a coastal mountain site across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, about 45 minutes from Fort Funston. It's managed by the Marin County Hang Gliding Association. Launch is around 1900ish ft. MSL/AGL, so you'll almost always get at least 10 minutes down to the easy beach landing even on a light day. On days with regular, laminar winds you can hang out by "the knob" to build up your air time. Days like those allow you to fly without subjecting yourself to too much challenging turbulence that can appear at Tam, especially in the spring time. I got my last 2 H3 hours at Tam without too much difficulty.
The rules at Tam are as tight as any Bay Area site, but at least it's feasible for an H2 to get hours. Basically, an H2 can fly Tam during the week and on non-holidays with a MCHGA Primary (the first time) or Secondary (all other times) Instructor. There aren't many Primary Instructors, so hooking up can sometimes be challenging. Contacts at , novice procedures at .
I personally used a slew of techniques. I went on a trip with a group to Big Sur which gave me about 45 minutes of airtime. This trip did wonders for my experience and comfort in the air. I then worked on my technique at Ed Levin until I felt confident with my launches and landings in varying conditions. Then I started taking trips to Lake McClure. The pilots at McClure are great and very helpful. Some days I sunk out after a short flight, some days I got 1 hour+ flights. McClure is a great place to work on good landings in a tough LZ. Then I started flying coastal sites like Waddell Creek and Mussel Rock. Mussel is great for racking up mega hours on a good day.